With a total of 344 projects sanctioned for the Ganga Basin, one project focused on redesigning the navigation lock at the Farakka Barrage (Murshidabad, West Bengal). The ‘fish pass’ sanctioned for the revival of Bengali favourite- Hilsa fish in Ganga, has been starting to show results, as per reports.
After a gap of three long decades, Hilsa was caught in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Jharkhand. The change in the gates and fish locks of the Farakka barrage allowed the upstream migration of the fish. In an interview with the Mint the National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) has stated, “Fishermen from Ballia, Patna, Bhagalpur and Sahibganj reported that since last three decades, they had never caught hilsa, but were surprised to catch the Hilsa of 150g to 250g.”
While the numbers are said to be small, the early signs of the Hilsa catch are encouraging, said the report.
The construction of barrages across rivers hampered the fish corridor obstructing the migration to reach its natural breeding ground. Moreover, overfishing, pollution, reduced water flow and high sedimentation also led to the disappearance of the fish.
Elaborating on the Namami Gange projects, Jal Shakti minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat stated to Mint, “We also work on restoring Ganga’s aquatic life. Can you believe that the NMCG is working to ensure that Gangetic Hilsa shall remain in Ganga? We are identifying why Gangetic hilsa numbers have come down, and are working on ways to artificially propagate it upstream of Farakka.”
“The work has started now for the last one-and-a-half to two years or so. The results are coming. They are visible. But, it will still take a long time. We have changed the trend. What was depleting, it has stopped and gone towards increasing. It is a very good sign,” he added.
What is a fish pass?
1975 built Farakka Barrage was reported to have disrupted the Hilsa’s journey, apart from concerns regarding floods in areas of Bihar.
Former Union Water Resources Minister Uma Bharti in a Lok Sabha session on August 4, 2016, had shared plans to create “fish ladders” to help the fish navigate the obstacle posed by the barrage.
A fish pass or a fish ladder is built to assist fish in crossing obstacles presented by dams and barrages. These ladders usually consist of small steps that allow the fish to cross over the obstacle to reach the open waters on the other side.
“The problem is Bangladesh has put a ‘zero net’. The natural breeding used to take place on Bangladesh’s side, and the fish swam upstream. First, this stopped because of the ‘zero net’. Second, the fish lock on our Farakka barrage through which the fish could swim was not operational for the last 10-20 years,” Shekhawat said on the obstacle.
“We are changing all gates, including the fish locks. Around 70% (of the gates) have been changed. We are also changing fish locks so that fish have an opportunity to swim (upstream) naturally. Till the time these activities are completed, we are catching Hilsa downstream of Farakka, acclimatizing them and, after their artificial breeding, tagging the seeds and propagating them so that they swim upstream and multiply. We are getting excellent results, minister Shekhawat stated.”
Namami Gange projects
From beautification of the ghats, to sewerage management projects to reviving the ecosystem, about 147 projects under the Namami Gange program have been completed successfully.
The frequent sighting of Gangetic Dolphins is proof of the revival of the river ecosystem.
On Friday the Executive Committee (EC) of the National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) approved new projects for the rejuvenation of six polluted river stretches in Uttarakhand. The committee has approved the Interception and Diversion (I&D), and STP work of six polluted river stretches.
In another initiative announced early this month, the authorities are now planning to put the massive waste generated by the mules deployed on the Char-Dham Yatra route to use as clean energy. The initiative aims at setting up biogas plants that will convert dung to electricity to power villages of the area. As of now, the Namami Gange officials are in Kedarnath to generate awareness about the initiative among the locals.